Millwood throws seven innings for Triple-A Scranton

The Kevin Millwood Comeback Tour hit the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metroplex this afternoon. The 36-year-old right-hander allowed two runs across seven innings of work, striking out three and getting nine ground balls against just one walk and three air outs. Sixty of his 95 pitches were strikes (63.2%). Donnie Collins spoke to a scout who clocked Millwood at 85-86 mph mostly, though he did touch 89 on occasion. He allowed the leadoff man to reach base in four of the first five innings, so he spent a good amount of the game working from the stretch.

Millwood’s opt-out date is just eight days away now, so the Yankees will get one more start to evaluate him before deciding what to do. My guess is that barring a total meltdown in his final minor league outing, they’ll call him up and stick him in the rotation somewhere. I guess this means Ivan Nova is officially on notice.

Saving (or Grilling) Your Starter’s Bacon

You are Joe Q. Starter. So far, you’ve given up 2 ER in 8IP and your team, the Tennessee Corndogs, is up 3-2. You’ve managed to load the bases with one out and your manager is coming to the mound to take you out of the game. You resist quite a bit, but he yanks you anyway. The problem is, everyone knows your team has a terrible bullpen, and the first thing Adam J. Reliever does in the game is give up a grand slam. You are charged with three of those runs, lose the quality start and the win, and your team goes on to take the loss. Bummer.

We all know ERA has some weird quirks – that’s why FIP has grown fairly prominent, especially in the sabermetric community – but I’ve always been very interested by the concept of inherited runners. Admittedly, the starter should have some kind of responsibility for the runners left on, but it seems extremely unfair to me for one pitcher to take responsibility – any kind of responsibility – for another pitcher’s actions. The Yankees are lucky this year that they have a strong bullpen and a high-strikeout fireman in David Robertson, but obviously he won’t ride in on his white horse and save A.J. Burnett’s rear end every day. The league average strand rate is about 70%, so D-Rob will be getting out of two bases-loaded jams and giving up a grand slam in the third. Whoops.

What the bullpen is doing with a pitcher’s inherited runners can have a pretty interesting effect on a pitcher’s ERA – and whether or not we like how ERA is calculated, it’s still a statistic that factors into most important pitcher-related decisions. It still tells us a lot, especially combined with FIP/xFIP. It still correlates very nicely with Cy Young victory – most Cy Young winners have ERAs under 3. The complaints that ERA also encompasses the strength of the defense has already been pretty hashed out, but how can you possibly blame one pitcher for the home run of another? I’m certainly not going to blame anything Ivan Nova does on CC Sabathia or  Freddy Garcia. It doesn’t seem fair if one pitcher leaves the bases loaded and a second pitcher gives up a bases-clearing double and then gets out of the inning. If all the runs are earned, both pitchers screwed up – but you’re laying all the blame on the starter and none on the reliever.

Let’s play with some numbers. I’ll be using BQR (bequeathed runners) and BQS (bequeathed runners scored) from Baseball Reference. In 2009, Burnett had a 4.04 ERA, which is pretty good. He pitched 207 innings and allowed 93 ER. That year, he left 19 BQR, and only one of them – a single one! – scored. If we bump this up to the league average of 30% and round up, seven of of them score, and Burnett’s ERA crawls up to 4.34. That’s a fairly significant uptick. Similarly, Burnett was exactly league average in 2010, where 6 of his 18 BQR were converted to BQS. If we bump up the relieving effort behind him and say only 2 of them score, then Burnett’s 5.26 ERA goes down to 5.07, which, while still a career worst, is a definite improvement.

Relievers have a complimentary stat: IR (inherited runners) and IS (inherited scored). Even Mariano Rivera has a career average IS of 29%, though this is buoyed by a particularly bad 2003 (49%!) and 2000 (42%). In 2010, his IS% was a slightly more godlike 19%. Last year, the fireman Robertson held an exactly league-average IS% of 30%, letting 10 of 33 runners score. Pedro Feliciano has been an excellent LOOGY, holding an IS% under 20% for the past two years and a career average of 24%. Unless Feliciano comes back this year, we’re stuck praying for Boone Logan to work his career average 29% down a few ticks. Last year, he let 8 of 33 runners score, good for a decent 24%.

I’m not saying that starters shouldn’t take some kind of responsibility for the runners that they leave on, but in the case of ERA, you’re basically flat-out pinning the blame of a bases-clearing triple on the pitcher who did not give it up. This is just another aspect of ERA that the pitcher has no control over. We all groan when we see Joba coming in in one of his bad phases, but I couldn’t imagine sitting there watching someone else compound my failure. A starter must already feel crappy about getting into a jam and not being trusted to or not thinking that he could get out it, and then some other guy just comes in a screws everything up even worse. We talk about luck and defense helping and hurting pitchers all the time, but having another guy exacerbate (on a bad day) or perfectly clean up (on a good day) your mess is certainly another element where a team can help or hinder a player’s ERA.

Cervelli hitless in latest rehab appearance

Only one Yankees farmhand made the Prospect Hot Sheet this week: Kevin Millwood in the “Man Among Boys” section. So hooray for that. Josh Romanski is now on the disabled list for whatever reason.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’re going to play two tomorrow. I assume Kevin Millwood will start one of those games since he was supposed to go tonight.

Double-A Trenton (3-2 loss to Harrisburg)
Austin Krum, LF & Corban Joseph, 2B: both 1 for 4, 1 K – CoJo scored a run
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K – that’s his first jack of the year
Cody Johnson, DH, Melky Mesa, CF & Jack Rye, 1B: all 0 for 4 – Mesa whiffed twice, Johnson thrice … Mesa threw a runner out at second
Addison Maruszak, C: 1 for 3, 2 K
Yadil Mujica, SS: 0 for 2, 1 BB – apparently Jose Pirela was a late scratch for whatever reason
Ray Kruml, RF: 0 for 3
Craig Heyer, RHP: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 6-5 GB/FB – 45 of 75 pitches were strikes (60%)
Naoya Okamoto, LHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2-1 GB/FB – two-thirds of his 30 pitches were strikes
Tim Norton, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1-1 GB/FB – nine of 17 pitches were strikes (.529)

[Read more…]

Friday Open Thread

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

For the third time in 17 days, the Yankees have had a game rained out as this evening’s contest with the Orioles has been postponed. We don’t know when they’re going to make it up, but at this rate they’re going to end up playing, like, 60 consecutive days after the All Star break. Hopefully next season won’t feature so many April games in the northeast.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the night. The Mets are taking on the Diamondbacks, and the Knicks will find a new way to break your heart in Game Three of the first round of the NBA playoffs (7 p.m. ET on ESPN; Celtics lead the best-of-seven series two games to none). There’s other NBA and NHL action on as well, so there’s plenty to watch. Then again, it’s Friday, so go out and live life. Have at it.

Game rained out as Carlyle replaces Noesi

Tonight’s game between the Yankees and the Orioles has been postponed by rain in the Baltimore area, but no make-up date has been announced yet. It will not, however, be made up this weekend. The Yanks have a two-game set in Baltimore in mid-May and four-game series scheduled for late August. My guess is that this one will be made up in May. We’ll have our open thread up in a little while, but this rain-out certainly makes watching the Knicks game easier.

Prior to the decision to cancel the game, the Yanks made a roster move. Via Andrew Marchand, the club has sent Hector Noesi back to Triple-A Scranton so that he could actually pitch, and Buddy Carlyle, a veteran right-hander with little history of success was called up to take his place. To clear a space on the 40-man roster, Jose Ortegano, a pitcher the Yanks had claimed from the Braves last month, was designated for assignment. Additional reporting by Benjamin Kabak.

Is Curtis Granderson’s power sustainable?

If you go to the statistics page, you’ll see a smiling picture of Mark Teixeira next to AL home run leaders. But it could just as easily be Curtis Granderson. The two teammates, along with Howie Kendrick, are tied atop the AL leader board with six home runs. We know Granderson has power, but league-leading power? It just doesn’t seem likely. Still, as Dan Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal notes, there is an additional factor to consider in Granderson’s case. Not only did he realize a late-season power surge in 2010 — similar to the one Jose Bautista experienced in 2009 — but he has also hit half of his homers this year against lefties. This has been a major weakness for him in the past, so if he can continue handling lefties well this year, he could definitely see an uptick in homers, even as his current pace slows a bit.

Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

The last week hasn't gone so well for the O's. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

For the first time in 2011, the Yankees will be playing a team for the second time when they visit Camden Yards this weekend. CC Sabathia gets the ball in the Friday night opener, then will be followed by Freddy Garcia in a rare Saturday night game and Ivan Nova in the third and final game on Sunday afternoon. We know there’s always a nice turnout by Yankees fans when they visit Baltimore, so it’s like home away from home.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

Oh boy, what a tailspin for the O’s. Since their 6-1 start they’ve lost nine of their last 11 games (including two to the Yankees last week) and have been outscored 61-37 in a perfect storm of poor pitching and poor hitting. The Yankees roll into town for the weekend series without having to worry about Jeremy Guthrie or Zach Britton; neither of Baltimore’s two best pitchers is scheduled to start any of the three games.

Orioles on Offense

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

When we last checked in on the Orioles, they were a bottom five team in all of baseball in terms of wOBA and OBP. They’ve managed to up their team wOBA from .281 to .298 since last facing the Yankees, which is no longer bottom five but is still bottom nine. The team OBP climbed a bit from .282 and now sits at .291, but that’s the second worst mark in the game, ahead of only the uber-slumping Twins.

Matt Wieters is coming into the series like a man possessed, picking up seven hits in his last five games, including two doubles and two homers. Brian Roberts is in the middle of a nine-game hitting streak, a stretch that started in the first game against the Yankees last week. He’s hitting .368/.415/.500 during that time. Robert Andino is filling in for the injured J.J. Hardy, and he has eight hits (all singles) in his last five games. Mark Reynolds (two for his last 26), Nick Markakis (three for his last 30), Luke Scott (four for his last 24), and Derrek Lee (six for his last 30) are all slumping. Adam Jones and Vlad Guerrero are neither slumping nor on fire, they’re just kinda going through the motions right now.

Orioles on the Mound

Friday: Brad Bergesen: A high school teammate of Phil Hughes, Bergesen has made two starts and one relief appearance this season, throwing two garbage time innings against the Yankees last week. He’s allowed three homers in just 10.2 IP this year, and he’s never been one to miss bats: just a 4.53 K/9 and 5.8% swing-and-miss rate in his career. Bergesen will make the Yankees put the ball in play with 88-91 mph two- and four-seamers, and every so often he’ll bust out a changeup or slider. The Bombers have put a hurtin’ on him in the past, scoring 11 runs in 17 innings against him. Pitch-to-contact pitchers usually don’t fare well against the Yankees lineup, so expect good things.

The Yankees had their way with Tillman a week ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Saturday: Chris Tillman: The Yankees faced Tillman in the series last week, tagging him for six runs and nine hits in just an inning-and-a-third. He held the utterly punchless Twins to three runs in 6.2 IP on Monday, but he was still missing some velocity and the results had more to do with Minnesota’s faults than his strengths. The game plan hasn’t changed one bit, just work the count and let it fly whenever Tillman makes a mistake.

Sunday: Jake Arrieta: After beating the Yankees twice in 2010, Arrieta pitched well against them last week but it was clear the Yankees made adjustments the second and third time through the order. They tagged him for five hits and three runs in the fifth and sixth innings after the young right-hander held New York to just one baserunner (a walk) over the first four innings. The Yankees should be better prepared for his two-seamer and slider heavy approach, hopefully jumping on the board a little earlier than they did last week.

Bullpen: Buck Showalter’s bullpen comes into the series pretty well rested, with only closer Kevin Gregg making as many as two appearances over the last four days. The only new face added to the ‘pen since last week is lefty specialist Clay Rapada, who replaced injured long-man Chris Jakubauskas. The middle relief/setup crew is rock solid with Jason Berken, Jim Johnson, and Koji Uehara from the right side while Mike Gonzalez takes care of business from the left. If the Yankees do what they’re supposed to do against the starters, the relievers should be nothing more than footnotes in the series.

Recommended Orioles Reading: Camden Crazies